Curriculum, Unschooling, and Pandemic Homeschooling

First, a few (actually, a lot of) notes about the notion of and need for curriculum vs unschooling, and then some comments on pandemic homeschooling. 

Many of you have probably heard of “unschooling” by now. If you haven’t, it’s basically a homeschool model where the child learns through natural life experiences and chooses what to learn and when to learn it. In these circles, “curriculum” is often considered a dirty word and parents are “guides” and not teachers. 

While I want to give ideas that I don’t personally have experience with (unless you count the child-led learning philosophies of preschools my children have attended in the past) a wide berth and the benefit of the doubt, something feels faddish and off enough that I thought I’d share my incoherent thoughts on the matter with you all. 

This list got WAY long, even after culling a lot of it. Feel free to skim.

  • Curriculum refers to the lessons taught, the subjects taught, and the method of teaching. It often is used to mean the set of work, instructions, and plans for teaching all of the different subjects. 
  • There’s a reason schools use curriculum. It makes it easy to make sure you are covering everything you need to and that there is some sense that students across the country in a given grade level all learn similar topics and skills. It creates a certain baseline guide, as well as providing (often extensively tested/researched) strategies for imparting that knowledge. 
  • Lots of people are generally involved in the designing of a curriculum. If each teacher had to do that work all on their own, they’d either do a crappy job of it or they’d never have time to actually teach.
  • Going curriculum-free feels like a recipe for learning gaps and falling behind. There is a reason schools attempt to teach a large quantity of certain material to students. It’s because, in modern society, you kind of have to know a lot in order to understand the world you live in and be able to function and succeed.
  • There may be ways that “unschooling” can work and there may be children for whom it works well. There are always things I don’t know.
  • It’s probably very true that many unschooled children and many graduates from standard K-12 institutions end up equally educated (or not) by the end. Conclude from that what you will.
  • There are many kids who don’t learn much or do well in the standard system but get pushed through to graduation anyway. This might point to problems in teaching methodology, socio-economic problems, issues in the student’s homelife, the fact that our system is age-based and not mastery-based, or any number of things. It is not evidence that the body of knowledge that regular school hopes to impart is somehow not needed or not the right set of knowledge (though I definitely believe each kid probably has a different set of what they really need to know and what they are capable of understanding that isn’t properly differentiated for).
  • Consider the entire body of knowledge that sits behind our K-12 educational system. People earn advanced degrees in pedagogy and curriculum design, perform research and studies to try out different ways to improve learning, examine past strategies and evolve them over time. Sure, there are flaws in the system – nothing is perfect – but if you don’t have a degree in education how can you, in good conscience, discount the giant mountain of knowledge created by those who do? This smells a little anti-vax-ish with a side of anti-intellectualism. 
  • I feel like, especially if you don’t have a background in education, using curriculum or trying different curriculums when homeschooling just makes practical sense. There are a multitude of options out there, so finding one that fits should, in theory, be possible, and should also help you make sure your kid doesn’t end up missing anything.
  • This is not to say that as a parent or guardian you aren’t capable of teaching your child anything on your own. Indeed you are! (Or at least, I hope so…) The real issue I see is that there is a LOT to learn during the K-12 years in our modern world, and in order to learn everything needed requires a certain amount of careful planning, understanding of efficient ways to impart knowledge, and other skills and general knowledge that most people don’t have without specialized training of some sort. There’s a reason teachers are required to have degrees and be certified.
  • The plural of curriculum is curricula in Latin, but curriculums in American English, though the former is more commonly used in academic writing. I just picked one and ran with it here, but it looks off. Is it just me?
  • When choosing curriculum for your homeschooler, it’s good to be as informed as possible. You should know who wrote the curriculum and where the ideas behind it came from. Is it secular, neutral, non-secular? Was it written by Mary Sue who barely graduated high school and thinks she’s an expert because she taught her own kids how to read at the age of ten? Or is it written by Jane Doe who has a dozen years of experience in a classroom along with a PhD in education, and who has helped design curriculum geared toward homeschoolers as well as conducted studies on its effectiveness?  
  • That is not to say that just because someone is credentialed, their stuff will be better or just because someone is not credentialed, their stuff is not of merit, but it is reasonable to expect a certain amount of correlation. 
  • Beware of fads.
  • Perhaps my experiences have simply been different than those who conclude that unschooling is their best option. I personally have felt that the K-12 system where I live generally does a good job for the average student. My middle kid, for example, seems to thrive in it and is moving along nicely. Have there been bumps? Yes. But a certain number of bumps can be character building.
  • Unschooling appears to be loosely defined enough that for some families it actually looks a lot like schooling (just without the children being unhappy about it) while for other families it looks like complete educational neglect. So in some sense it is inaccurate to attach a single label to that entire spectrum as though there were commonalities that persist throughout it.
  • For all practical purposes, “unschooling” looks a lot like what my kids do in their free time or during summer vacation already. 
  • Unschooling also feels like what schools do with gifted kids where they let them do their own open-ended projects with little guidance or feedback beyond praise, and no real direction offered. It’s teacherless learning, and while it can keep a kid happy for a little bit, it leads to gaps and stagnation. Maybe that’s part of the problem I see with the idea – it looks too similar to something I know doesn’t actually educate in any sort of deep and rigorous way that allows for real growth.
  • Unschoolers tout the idea that learning is a natural inborn process and that if left alone, kids will learn and be happier doing so. That’s a great idea, in theory. But how many people were literate before schools were a thing? Sure, nowadays most parents can teach their kids to read (is this really “unschooling” if they are teaching?) but how many other things that are learned in a standard school setting or via using standard curriculum will these kids never encounter, learn about, or understand? 
  • Back in the middle ages when most people worked in trades and didn’t need academic skills to function in society, I’m sure unschooling was fine. But in the modern era, much of what we do as adults is built upon knowledge which took multiple very intelligent people many many generations to discover and develop. A rigorous, carefully designed curriculum is how that large mass of information is efficiently imparted upon us all as we grow. No, it is not torture or denying natural learning. Yes, it is challenging at times – this can be a good thing. No, your child will not be crushed under the orthodoxy of it all. 
  • Yes, the standard public school system doesn’t fit every child well. Yes, it does fit many children reasonably well. 
  • Dismal outcomes of public schools are often touted, but the fact of the matter is, more success stories emerge from the public school system than failures. 
  • The bulk of students who attend the top colleges in the country are from actual regular schools of some sort. 
  • I don’t see the utilization of a carefully chosen curriculum, a rough adherence to a schedule designed to match my kid’s learning pace, and lots of one-on-one interaction during the learning process to be a recipe for detriment. In fact, many of the qualities of the interactions mirror those described by unschoolers – child excited to learn, intense focus, happiness, etc. – but with more guidance, and a greater quantity and quality of knowledge imparted.
  • There is little if any actual evidence that unschooling is effective. If you google, you’ll find that this dude named Dr. Peter Gray did a survey of 232 unschooling parents and 75 unschooled adults who largely claim positive outcomes, but there is such extreme selection bias to this survey that it’s results are essentially meaningless. (You can only glean that there are some people who feel that they had positive outcomes, with no actual sense of what percentage of the unschooling community this is representative of, and no objective measure of how their outcomes compare to a control group.)
  • There is a very small study showing that when you compare standardized test results of kids who were regular schooled, homeschooled, and unschooled, that the homeschooled kids did best, regular schooled kids did second best, and unschooled did worst. Unschoolers will tell you this is because of lack of familiarity with test structure and not lack of knowledge. To be fair, it’s possible that IS a point worth considering.
  • Many of the unschool “success stories” describe how these kids go to college and are successful there. But this almost always refers to them attending community college. Having taught at a community college for years, I can tell you first hand that attending one or even succeeding at one is not a mark of actual successful acquisition of knowledge or preparation for anything. That is not to say that no one gets educated or improves themselves at community college, but rather that it is perfectly possible to attend and graduate from one without ever learning anything. (This is sadly also true of some 4 year institutions.)
  • Due to the lack of evidence of its effectiveness, I would not personally recommend unschooling to anyone who is wondering what to do as they start their homeschool journey. Moreover, I find it disturbing when unschoolers appear to be pressuring others to join in their philosophy as though it is the only path to enlightenment when there is literally nothing but their own feelings and scattered anecdotes to back them up. 

Moving on…

Pandemic Homeschooling

Many people are looking into homeschooling this year because of the pandemic. They are new to homeschooling and they are worried and unsure of what to do. They may very well go back to the regular school system in another year or two. I’m sure there are reasons to find them annoying in your homeschool discussion group (yes, they should probably do a search first and make sure the questions they are asking have not already been answered a thousand times.), but for real, they are still legitimate humans with legitimate ideas and thoughts about how to teach their kids. 

The regular school system is not evil. Their children are not tainted by it. They are not “failing to truly understand the value of homeschooling or how it works” just because they go back later. There’s a good chance that, if they’re considering homeschooling now, they actually put thought into the decisions they make for their children. I know you want to chime in with your homeschool success stories – if only they’d listen about not trying to recreate school at homeland go curriculum-free – but do note that public school success stories exist in far greater numbers. 

The moral of the story is:

  • It’s okay to homeschool
  • It’s okay to send kids to regular school
  • It’s okay to homeschool temporarily during a pandemic
    It’s okay to change your mind about what works best for your kids

And if someone’s homeschool curriculum plan looks like it is shadowing the regular school’s curriculum plan, that’s probably perfectly fine (even though, yes, the learning environment at home is very different and they will probably make changes and adjust along the way). The only thing that’s not okay is to deprive your child of an education or make decisions from a place of self-imposed ignorance.

What I’m Teaching My Kid With This Year

In this post I will give a run down of the curriculum I plan on using this year with my 9-year-old, along with what I like about it, why I chose it, and pros and cons list so you can determine if it’s something you might be interested in as well.

First, it’s worth noting that what works for one person does not work for everyone. No two homeschool families are alike, there are a multitude of different education approaches, and children can vary greatly both in how they learn and what interests them. My curriculum choices were made to meet the very specific needs of one very specific child.

We’ll start with a list, and then I’ll break down each item:

Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Curriculum

I came across this curriculum in many searches while looking specifically for something that would be a good fit for gifted learners. This curriculum includes grammar, vocabulary, writing, and poetry when you buy a complete level set. They also have literature trilogies that you can mix and match. 

What I like about this curriculum is that it takes a very deep dive into every corner of language and how it works. It’s also designed to be engaging and to encourage conversation between educator and child during learning. Nothing is dumbed down or oversimplified or worksheet-heavy (all things which make my child melt in her seat and roll around on the floor while making dying cow noises). 

Each level has a suggested age range which spans three or more years, so you can choose the level that fits your child. Samples of the books can be viewed on the publisher’s website. Many homeschoolers have given this curriculum rave reviews. Overall, it really expects a lot from your child and extends their vocabulary, understanding, and appreciation for language. Heck, I’m looking forward to learning new things while teaching it to my kid, and I write for a living.

About the Author: Michael Clay Thompson has thirty years of experience as a teacher as well as holding other academic roles. He continues to teach online and is an author, consultant, speaker, and workshop presenter. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University and an M.A. from Western Carolina University. 


  • Completely secular
  • Ideal for gifted learners, but great for all learners
  • Breaks down different aspects of language arts into components which can be purchased separately if you just want to supplement grammar, vocab, writing, or etc. 
  • Very thorough
  • Levels continue up through high school


  • Some people may find it teaches far more than they feel is important to spend time on.
  • A lot of the literature examples are old-white-dude heavy (we are supplementing the literature trilogies with our own selection of much more diverse books).
  • It can require a lot of parental/educator involvement
  • Their first level doesn’t start until ages 8-10 (3rd/4th grade level). They are working on sets for ages 6-8 and 7-9, but it is unclear how soon those will be out.

Moving Beyond the Page Science and Social Studies

Moving Beyond the Page actually offers full curriculum sets that cover not just science and social studies, but also language arts and (for lower age levels) math. The subjects tend to complement or overlap each other in a sort of unit study style approach that is also literature based. This is another curriculum that is specifically designed for gifted learners

The science and social studies both look amazing (the other subjects look great, too, but we chose to use different materials ourselves to better match our kid’s needs). There are sets of workbooks for each subject, along with boxes of lab equipment, and several additional reading books to go along with everything. 

The workbooks lead kids through hands-on investigations and really work on higher level thinking, investigating, reasoning, and analyzing skills, which we much prefer to worksheets and simple fact-recall. At the end of each unit the child completes a summative project as well to demonstrate mastery.

Samples as well as guides to choosing the right level can be found on their website.Note that you can purchase complete sets, single-subject sets, or even single units if you want to mix and match.

About the Authors: Authors include Kim A. Howe, who has an MS in Education Psychology with an emphasis in Gifted and talented Education from Texas A&M University, Katie Durgin-Bruce, who has an MA in Educational Technology from Columbia University Teachers College, Kathy Wall, who has a Ph.D. in United States History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Karen Brown, who has an MA in English from Virginia Tech. All have worked at some of the most respected curriculum companies and universities in the country.


  • Completely secular (biology books teach evolution and etc.)
  • Hands-on and interactive
  • Literature-based and integrated learning approaches
  • Can be a complete curriculum package if you purchase the full set, but you can also purchase single subject sets, or single unit workbooks as well and mix and match
  • Ideal for gifted learners, but great for all learners
  • It is roughly aligned with the common core standards
  • Each level spans a 3-year age range so you can choose the level that’s right for your kid, or even use one level for multiple kids who are close together in age.
  • Older students may be able to work fairly independently.


  • Some people may find the full curriculum too demanding or fast-paced.
  • If your kid doesn’t enjoy reading, they may find the amount of reading required to be overwhelming (but you can always read TO them if you’d prefer!)
  • It’s a little pricey.
  • It currently doesn’t go beyond ages 12-14 (roughly 8th grade).

The Art of Problem Solving

This is a demanding and fast-paced math curriculum that not only teaches problem solving skills, but encourages students to struggle with challenge problems on a regular basis. 

The first book in the AoPS series is Prealgebra, designed for students who have completed 5th grade math or higher and are ready for challenging work. This book covers all of prealgebra and leaves a student prepared for Algebra 1 (AoPS’s Begining Algebra). 

While they offer online classes using this curriculum, you can also purchase the book only ( which is relatively inexpensive) and teach your child at home. There are free videos available on their website that explain several of the topics covered, and they also offer free access to Alcumus, an online learning system, for extra practice.

For students who are not yet ready for prealgebra or beyond, the AoPS team are the same people responsible for the Beast Academy curriculum, which is available both in book and online form, for 2nd graders and above. We have used Beast Academy a little in the past and think it’s pretty great as well. Again, it teaches math at a deeper and more advanced level and focuses less on repetition and more on deep thinking and problem-solving skills. Beast Academy is also comic-based, which many young students find more engaging and entertaining.

About the Authors: Primary curriculum authors include Richard Rusczyk who founded AoPS in 2003, and David Patrick, who came on board in 2004. Richard is a former director of the USA Mathematical Talent Search, a former participant in National MATHCOUNTS, a three-time participant in the Math Olympiad Summer Program, and a USA Mathematical Olympiad winner. A graduate from Princeton University, he also won the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions Paul Erdos Award in 2014. David received a perfect score on the American High School Mathematics Examination in 1988, the same year he won the USA Mathematical Olympiad. He has a BS from Carnegie Mellon in Mathematics and Computer Science, an MS in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT. 


  • Can be inexpensive if you just purchase the text only.
  • Great for advanced learners and those who need a challenge
  • Rigorous preparation for higher level and college math as well as many math contests
  • Completely secular
  • Lots of free online resources (videos, Alcumus, forums)


  • For those who just want a straightforward math curriculum, note that this curriculum teaches students more than they usually need to learn and covers topics that go beyond most standard curriculums.
  • It is fast-paced without a lot of repetition, though you may choose to move through it at whatever pace works for you and supplement with additional materials.
  • Some feel that the AoPS texts are a little “dry” especially compared to the comic-formatted Beast Academy books.

The Life of Fred

This is a series of math books where math is presented in the context of a quirky and absurd story following the life of Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who teaches at Kittens University. These books run from basic beginning elementary math all the way up to and including college level mathematics. In the process, a wide variety of other topics are weaved in which sets math in a larger context and connects ideas to life, literature, art, social studies, and science.

We chose to add these books as a math supplement because we feel the story is entertaining and will appeal to our kid who loves to read. I also like the idea of teaching math from two different angles/approaches simultaneously for added understanding. 

At the earlier levels especially, many people use these books as supplements and not as a complete curriculum because they move through the material fairly quickly without a lot of practice problems. 

Now here’s the real caveat: It’s not completely secular. You might be wondering how you make a math book non-secular, and the truth is, that it’s definitely MOSTLY secular to the point where I, personally, do not find issue with it. 

The ways in which it is non-secular include the following:

  • The author dedicates the books to god.
  • The main character, Fred, is sometimes mentioned in the story as attending Sunday school or saying his prayers. 
  • I’ve heard tell, but have not had opportunity to directly observe myself, that some of the earlier books include a few bible song verses that the character sings.
  • There is an occasional biblical reference here and there.
  • In the book Prealgebra 1 with Biology the author makes explicit mention that he will be avoiding talking about evolution (though he also does not include any talk about creationism or anything non-secular)
  • I’ve heard tell that in one of the books {God} is used as an example of a set of 1. 

The religious references for the most part appear to be brief and infrequent and do not have much relevance to the story line or the math being taught. This is why I have no issue using these texts, but your mileage may vary.

About the Author: Dr. Stanley Schmidt is a former high school teacher and college professor.  It’s actually very difficult to find out a lot of information about him, but there’s an interview with him on this site. He appears to be a very religious man with some non-mainstream views, but also someone with a passion for learning and making learning fun.


  • Covers all levels of math from early elementary through college
  • Funny and entertaining story format really works for some kids
  • The math is well-presented and organized in a logical order
  • Incorporates other ideas and subjects alongside the math, giving it context


  • Not entirely secular (often classified as “neutral”)
  • May not work well as a complete curriculum
  • If your kid isn’t into the story line, then this won’t work for you
  • I’ve heard that in some parts of some stories (in particular Prealgebra 2 with Economics) that the author seems to integrate some more conservative viewpoints that some people may not jive with. (These may or may not bother you, or you may use them as conversation pieces with your child, which is our plan if we find anything we feel is “off”.)

Problem-Based Learning Units from Royal Fireworks Press

I’m planning on using three Problem-Based learning units from RFWP (the same publisher of the Michael Clay Thompson series). These units are written by experienced gifted educators and curriculum designers and some have even won curriculum awards from the NAGC. They are designed for roughly 5th/6th grade level and up.

The idea behind these units is to put your child in a realistic scenario with a lot of complexity to it. They have to use critical thinking, analyze different materials and sources, and strategize to solve a complex problem. The units often incorporate standards and skills from multiple different areas, such as language arts, social studies, and science.

The ones we plan on using this year are Ferret Ecology (determining how many prairie dogs to introduce into an ecosystem in order to ensure the survival of the black-footed ferret, along with considering rights of homeowners and ranchers), Plague (as a government official in the Italian town of Lucca in 1348, you must determine how to react to and mitigate the spread of the Black Death), and A Final Appeal (in which students act as judges assessing the appeal of a teacher who was fired for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird).

About the Author: The primary author of most books in this series is Dr. Shelagh A. Gallagher, an award-winning expert in gifted education and problem-based learning. She currently works as a consultant and author and previously spent years teaching and researching gifted education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 


  • Amazing curriculum that really teaches critical thinking
  • Students get to make decisions based on realistic scenarios
  • Completely secular


  • Many of the units work best with a group of children instead of one-on-one, so they might require adaptation in a homeschool setting

In Conclusion

There are, of course, many other awesome curriculums out there and I will provide overviews of some I’ve seen come up a lot in my next post, along with clear call-outs about anything questionable, neutral, or non-secular. On the slate for review are BookShark, Blossom and Root, Torchlight, Real Science Odyssey, Timberdoodle, Oak Meadow, and Build Your Library.

Side note: As of the publishing of this post, the 2020-2021 school year is fast approaching. With an influx of people making plans for pandemic homeschooling, several publishers are running out of materials and many items are backordered. I highly recommend ordering as soon as possible once you decide on a curriculum.

The Search for Secular Curriculum

I’ve been considering starting a blog about homeschooling for a while, if for no other reason than to provide a productive outlet for the insane amount of research I’ve been doing on the matter lately. (If you can turn your obsessive research into blog posts, then it appears rational and justified and not like a sign of COVID-quarantine-induced mental health decline resulting from an unfulfilled need for a sense of control at all!)

In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people looking into homeschooling right now due to fear of sending their children back to plague-infested schools or general skepticism of their school’s ability to implement distance learning effectively or in a way that doesn’t leave their children whining and melting out of their chairs while their brains slowly decay.

I am planning on homeschooling my youngest (9 years old) this year not for COVID reasons, but because school hasn’t been fitting right for a while for other reasons. Last year she tried online school, which she didn’t really enjoy and for which we supplemented a LOT, so we’ve kind of been doing a disorganized homeschool method for a while already. For this year, however, oh have I been planning and preparing!

My many excursions in internet-land have included joining various facebook groups in the hopes of finding additional ideas and resources with regards to homeschooling. In fact, a particularly negative experience in one such group recently was the impetus for finally starting this blog. (So if parts of this post read like a rant, that’s because it is. However, I hope that some of it is also informative.)

As such, not only is this blog about secular homeschooling in general, but the main topic of this first post is: All of my thoughts on what secular homeschooling means and how to be open minded and well informed as you seek appropriate curriculum for your child.

Here are my thoughts and opinions about secular instruction:

  • I am a rather staunch atheist, firmly believe in secular instruction, and have no intention of projecting any religious doctrine upon my children. That said, I don’t shield them from religion either.
  • I have let my inlaws take my children to church with them. My children did not burst into flames, nor did the holy water burn them. They also were not converted. They have, however, gotten to see what happens in a church and what people do there.
  • Homeschooling has been around for a long time and many people have historically chosen to homeschool for religious reasons. As a result there are a lot of non-secular materials on the market (this includes materials classified as “neutral” such as biology books that simply omit discussion of evolution or creation altogether). Because of this, as a secular homeschooler, it can be difficult to wade through materials and find good ones that work for you.
  • It isn’t just the non-religious that might be seeking secular curriculum. People with all sorts of beliefs may be seeking such curriculum for their own reasons.
  • Having a place to go where you can find secular resources, or a clear indication of the content of non-secular materials, would be very helpful for homeschoolers like myself.
  • Because non-secular homeschooling has been around for so long, it has produced many materials that may still be of value for secular educators. These materials may either need to be supplemented, modified, or presented in a larger context of explaining belief systems to our children. There is a need for thorough vetting of such sources from a secular perspective.
  • Choosing to entirely ignore, ban, and deny conversation about the use of non-secular or neutral materials in a secular homeschool setting amounts to willful ignorance of the type religious people are often accused of. 
  • It is important to have a place where you can find homeschool materials that will work for you and are consistent with your beliefs and values. This means a place where all types of resources can be discussed and reviewed, but where this discussion is honest and very clear about the material’s content, to include not just religious content, but the qualifications and other ideologies of the authors who wrote it.
  • If you are seeking secular homeschool material (or material that can be adapted to secular purposes), it can quickly become frustrating if 90% of everything you come across is non-secular, neutral, or claims to be secular when it isn’t.
  • It is possible for people to hold religious beliefs and still have expertise in certain fields that are of value to learners. (In fact many of science’s greatest discoveries were made by people who were devoutly religious.)
  • It is possible to engage with people who hold religious beliefs and respectfully disagree with them like adults. In fact, it’s even possible to agree with them about some things.
  • It is important for children to understand that many different people hold many different beliefs, but that this does not make them “other” or inhuman or worthy of being shunned or ignored. This can mean, however, that you need to take certain things they say or do with a grain of salt or skepticism.
  • That said, there are times when you may need to separate yourself or your family from people engaging in religious practices or ideologies that you feel are damaging to you or society at large. It’s even perfectly valid to actively speak out against such ideologies when they are problematic.
  • It is understandable that some non-religious people may feel very strongly about even the smallest hint of religious content due to past trauma, living in an unsupportive community, or any other variety of reasons. 
  • If you choose to form a group around the idea of zero tolerance for even the mere mention of anything that might remotely be construed as religious regardless of the context, you can at the very least not be an asshole about it and clearly state your extreme bias somewhere visible. Most people are going to assume you aren’t totalitarian when you use words like “secular” in your title because those of us who are secular often associate that word with a certain amount of integrity and ability to think rationally. Consider changing your group name to: “Zero-tolerance Anti-religious Homeschoolers” and maybe instead of using the motto “our differences are our strength” something more along the lines of “dissent is not allowed; if you even mention the curriculum Real Science 4 Kids, even if it’s to say “Is Real Science 4 Kids secular?” or something similarly non-threatening, we will delete you; and may fire be upon you if you admit to having let your kid read a Life of Fred book” would provide prospective members a more accurate picture of what to expect. 

Yeah, this took a little turn just now…

That said, SEA (Secular, Eclectic, Academic) Homeschoolers – the offending group in question – CAN be used as a resource to find secular materials, just be warned. During my brief time in their facebook group I watched numerous innocuous posts disappear without statement as though some sort of secret police were hunting down the infidels. When I asked for an explanation, I was ejected from the group. 

When admins frequently and selectively delete comments and replies in a social forum without announcement, this is a form of dishonest content manipulation. Conversation threads and comments are removed before you can see them so that you are never exposed to different ideas. It’s one thing if those threads were offensive or damaging in some way, but we’re talking about statements like “I actually used curriculum X, though it is nonsecular” in response to a direct question. Even when such statements were a small part of a larger, well-thought-out response to something, the whole post would just disappear. 

So it isn’t even that they don’t list anything remotely non-secular and don’t want people recommending anything non-secular in their space – that seems perfectly valid – but they act as though merely speaking the names of the non-secular beasts in any way that acknowledges their existence is some sort of affront to humanity that requires your silent assasination. 

I suppose that’s their choice, but sheesh!  

Anyway, I personally think it makes more sense for a secular homeschooling site to not just focus exclusively on discussion of the strictest most secular materials, but to allow for an examination of other materials from a secular education standpoint, especially considering the sheer quantity of such curricula in existence.

Imagine, if you will, a world in which a much better math program exists than any that SEA mentions on their site or facebook page but they dare not speak of it due to the fact that the author dedicated the book to god. (I don’t capitalize god. That’s how I atheate.) Such a dedication might be a deal-breaker for some, and that’s perfectly fine, but I imagine that many secular educators would like to know about it so they can make that decision for themselves. And wouldn’t it be great to get a review of such resources from a secular perspective so you have a very clear idea of what it contains?

SEA has criticised another site, on their use of “secular” in their name because they allow for discussion of nonsecular materials and sometimes sell ad space to non-secular publishers. While this is worth considering, note that you are much more likely to find a balanced discussion about material on the latter site. Like, you could ask “Is Real Science 4 Kids secular?” and someone would give you a detailed answer instead of secretly deleting your comment and banning you. You may, however, encounter unmarked non-secular material here and there, both on their site and in newsletters, apparently, so beware.

You may also consider checking out Cathy Duffy Reviews which has TONS of reviews on different homeschool materials, though A LOT of it is non-secular. HOWEVER, on every review they give they have a little “Instant Key” on the right-hand side of the page that, among other things, explicitly indicates the religious perspective or lack thereof. That said, it also appears that their is-this-religious? filter is skewed by the website author’s own views, but it does give you useful information to start from for those who aren’t afraid of catching god-cooties. (Note: They list Real Science 4 Kids as secular when it actually isn’t entirely.)

That’s all I have for now, as I am new to this homeschool journey myself. In my next post I’ll give you the breakdown of what curriculum I’m using this year and the exact nature of any potential non-secularness of one piece of it. If anyone has any secular curriculum they recommend, or non-secular or neutral curriculum they feel is valuable even in a secular education context, please drop me a note and I’ll try to do a write up about it. 

In the future I plan to add pages to this website that include lists of strictly secular materials, lists of neutral materials (with notes and suggestions for supplementation) and lists of non-secular material that may be useful if modified (with notes and suggestions for how to do this.) I want you to be able to find the right curriculum for providing your children a secular education without feeling like you’re caught off guard by religious content, or being kept in the dark about the existence of potentially useful resources.